Chris McGinnis travels with just a carry-on bag, which leaves little room for running shoes.
When he wants to exercise during a trip, he takes long walks. He prefers burning calories while strolling through the Hudson River Park in New York or Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles. It's much nicer than running on a treadmill in a windowless hotel fitness room, he says.
"It's just good to be outdoors after spending so many hours in offices or on trade show floors full of stale air," says McGinnis, Best Western's business travel trends expert and a blogger at the company's travel site Youmustbetrippin.com.
The hotel fitness center has gotten fancier in recent years. But for many road warriors, that doesn't matter. They'd rather exercise in the great outdoors.
In a TripAdvisor survey of more than 1,400 U.S. travelers this year, 87% said walking is their primary exercise while traveling. Another 35% said they liked hiking, and 16% said they prefer biking.
In a bid to win those travelers, hotels are starting to give them exercise options beyond the fitness center. Many now offer walking tours and free bikes. Some have built outdoor areas for walking or running.
"There's clearly a group of travelers who like to work out in the gym and others who like to work out outside," says Chekitan Dev, associate professor of strategic marketing and brand management at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. "Hotels are recognizing that travelers need choices."
Dev also points out that many hotels are getting better at taking advantage of their surroundings. "It's sort of short-sighted to think of the facilities that guests can access as being just within four walls," he says. "Hotels realize they have a bigger landscape to choose from."
There's some scientific evidence to support the theory that exercising outside may be better than in a gym. A 2008 Glasgow University poll of about 2,000 people found a 50% improvement in mental health among those who worked out outdoors.
And studies show that frequent travelers could use a lift. In a Harris Interactive poll released this year, 75% of 2,000 working Americans said too much travel for work caused them more stress.
"You're out of your normal element and surroundings, so even that can provide some level of stress," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. "You're not sleeping in your own bed. You're not [following] your own routine as far as what you eat."
Exercising outdoors, he says, can help moderate that.
"The fresh air and the changing scenery and so forth can serve as an even greater positive distraction to forget the various care and trials of the day," he says.
Ted Mitchell, an engineer in Dallas, appreciates hotels that offer walking maps and other walking amenities. He tries to walk a couple of miles each night when he's on the road.
"I am inside buildings in conference rooms all day," he says. "Fresh air and being outside makes me feel like I am on vacation for a little while."
At select Home2 Suites properties, guests can take advantage of a walking path surrounding the buildings.
"We just heard the drumbeats really loudly about customers wanting to stay healthy on the road and wanting to go out and get a breath of fresh air," says Bill Duncan, global head of brand management for Home2 Suites and Homewood Suites by Hilton. "They want a variety of different ways to exercise."
The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain north of Tucson, a Marriott property, offers a complimentary guided nature walk with one of their "rangers" every day. During the walk the rangers talk about the different types of plants and wildlife in the area and show participants ancient Indian petroglyphs. The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe provides maps for hikes that begin at the back doors of the property up to Sawmill Lake.
The Hotel Wolcott in Midtown Manhattan provides pedometers and walking maps at the front desk.